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Patients grow comfortable with digital health tools, CDW finds

Patients grow comfortable with digital health tools, CDW finds | Healthcare and Technology news |

It’s generally thought that healthy people are more health-engaged than people diagnosed with medical issues. But that’s old health school thinking: most health consumers managing chronic conditions say they’ve become more engaged with healthcare over the past two years, according to CDW’s 2017 Patient Engagement Perspectives Study.

In 2017, 70 percent of patients told CDW they’d become more engaged with healthcare, up from 57 percent in 2016. That’s a 20percent growth in the proportion of patients engaging in healthcare in just one year.

Growing signs of patient engagement are in people driven to access online patient portals for their personal healthcare records:

  • People using an online patient portal provided by healthcare providers, growing from 45 percent in 2016 to 74 percent of patients using portals in 2017
  • More frequently speaking to healthcare providers, by 69 percent of patients
  • More frequently accessing personal healthcare information, by 69 percent of patients.

Underneath these trends is consumers’ growing recognition of the benefits of online access. Nearly 100 percent of patients have experienced benefits from engaging with personal health information online, with:

  • 70 percent of patients becoming more knowledgeable about personal medical information in 2017;
  • 60 percent of patients saving time
  • 50 percent of patients increasing overall engagement with personal healthcare
  • 49 percent seeing improvement in overall healthcare convenience
  • 46 percent of people saving unnecessary phone calls and appointments.

It’s also commonly thought that older patients won’t want or be able to access their online health information. However, by 2017, 53 percent of older patients over 50 years of age said they used a portal at least monthly.

Finally, patients are getting comfortable communicating with providers via digital channels: 83 percent of patients are comfortable communicating via mobile apps, 77 percent are comfortable with texts, 75 percent are comfortable with online chat, and 69 percent of patients are comfortable with video chat.

For this research, CDW interviewed 200 patients diagnosed with a chronic disease. This population was defined as people who had been to the doctor six or more times in the past year (including visits to any primary physician or specialist, but excluding dental care).

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  CDW’s research confirms that not only healthy, younger people engage with digital tech for health: people who are managing medical conditions have also gone digital, especially when it comes to accessing their personal health information via online portals to electronic health records.

CDW also polled healthcare providers on their progress to meeting patients’ digital demands. Sadly, only 29 percent of patients would give their healthcare providers an “A” for their use of tech to engage with them. The bottom line: nine in 10 patients would like to be able to more easily access their personal healthcare records.

This begs the perennial question: who owns our (patients’) data? As patients continue to grow their health consumer muscles, and experience, they’ll be expecting greater and more streamlined accessibility to “their” health information. Those providers who do not respond to this demand may see more digitally-savvy patients move to practices that offer more digital access, apps, and convenient, personalized health coaching services.

Technical Dr. Inc.s insight:

Contact Details : or 877-910-0004

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Realistic Patient Scheduling for Your Medical Practice

Realistic Patient Scheduling for Your Medical Practice | Healthcare and Technology news |

One of the primary frustrations in any medical practice is the apparent inability to schedule effectively. The most often cited culprits are late patients, inefficient front-office staff, uncooperative insurance companies, EHR inefficiencies, and inconsiderate physicians.

While each of these could be causal, they are often symptoms of a single root cause: failure to acknowledge and account for the lead times between the stages of each patient visit. Consider Mary Doe, a considerate patient who has the first appointment of the day at 8 a.m.


Mary will appear at the reception desk at 8 a.m., her appointment time. She may have arrived earlier. It does not matter because the door would have been locked.

Mary probably knows it will take time to do some paperwork, but she has assumed that the practice wants her there at her appointment time. She is unaware of the time it will take to get her information updated in the practice management system. Depending upon the office and whether Mary is a new or existing patient, all of this can take between 5 minutes and 50 minutes.

Mary will be frustrated because she actually expected to be in an exam room soon after 8 a.m., and the physician is frustrated because he did, too. And the frustration will intensify throughout the day because the office will inevitably fall farther and farther behind schedule, because all of the delays are additive.

A solution would be to schedule two appointments for Mary: one for the front desk and one for the physician. The length of the front-desk appointment would depend upon whether Mary is a new or existing patient. When making the appointment, the scheduler should explain to Mary that there will be some paperwork to be handled before she can be seen. (An alternative is to schedule a single appointment for Mary and advise her to arrive 15 minutes to 45 minutes earlier so she can be seen "on time.")

Ancillary services

Depending upon the type of practice, Mary may need to have a test, X-ray, or blood drawn before being seen. In that instance, she needs yet another appointment slot. Mary should be told the sequence of events at the time she makes the appointment and be given an estimate of the time she can expect the appointment, in total, to take.

In some specialties, the physician sees the patient before these other services are performed. If the patient is coming back to the physician after these services are complete, Mary needs another appointment slot on the schedule.

As many as four appointment entries for a single appointment probably sounds crazy, a foolish waste of limited resources. I understand. Before you reject it out of hand, think about what it buys the practice and, especially, the physician:

• Providers and staff can be scheduled more effectively. It may be easier for everyone to have the same work hours, but it is not required.

• Appointments on the physician's schedule reflect when the physician is needed.

• Patients are more satisfied, because their experience is in line with their expectations.

• The office has a reasonable chance of staying on, or close to, schedule.

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How to Make the Most of Your Medical Practice's Patient Portal | Physicians Practice

How to Make the Most of Your Medical Practice's Patient Portal | Physicians Practice | Healthcare and Technology news |
With so many challenges facing practices, from declining reimbursement to reform initiatives to the meaningful use incentive program, it's understandable that many of you are hesitant to implement a patient portal. But practices that have taken the plunge say the time and money spent implementing the new technology leads to big payoffs — and quickly.

"Basically it frees my staff up so they can work on other things; so they can be more attentive to referrals, and prior authorizations, and appointments; and pretty soon we're going to engage the functionality that allows the patients to schedule some appointments online," says solo family physician Christine Smith, who recently implemented her portal. "It just kind of streamlines things so [patients] can take care of some of the more usual things on their own."

Smith, of Baton Rouge, La., estimates that about 20 percent of her patients are already using the portal, which enables them to request prescription refills, exchange secure messages with her and three staff members, view test and lab results, and more. In addition to saving her time, Smith says the portal is improving patient engagement, and helping her satisfy the meaningful use requirements for the government's EHR incentive program.

While Smith has had great success with her portal, not all practices that implement them experience such positive results. Part of the reason: Unlike many other initiatives that practices take on, such as EHR implementations or recognition as Patient-Centered Medical Homes, successful portal implementations require not only staff and physician engagement, but patient engagement. A practice might have the best portal in the world, but if its patients don't use it, it's going to be of little use.

For that reason, medical practice technology experts and consultants, as well as practice managers and physicians that have successfully implemented portals, say practices must keep patients' perspectives in mind throughout the portal selection, implementation, and marketing process. Here's more on the various considerations practices should take to ensure they are making the most of their patient portals.

Define your needs

Once your practice decides that it's time to implement a patient portal, take your time to define your portal expectations and requirements prior to shopping around, says reproductive endocrinologist and OB/GYN Robert Wah, chief medical officer at CSC, a health information technology services and solutions company. Practices that fail to define their expectations in advance often get lured in by products that look great initially, but ultimately fail to meet their needs, says Wah, who is also president of the AMA.

Some of the key features to look for in a portal include the ability to:

• Upload medication lists, problem lists, immunization lists, and lab and test results;

• Exchange secure messages with patients;

• Offer and respond to prescription refill requests;

• Provide online statements and bill pay capabilities; and

• Enable patients to request or schedule appointments.

When outlining your portal needs, consider what features will likely attract patients to the portal. The more attractive the features are to patients, the more likely they are to use it. Stephen Snyder, president of MTBC, a healthcare IT solutions provider for physician practices, which provided Smith with her patient portal, says his clients find that key patient drivers are the ability to review statements, pay balances, and schedule appointments through the portal.
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Searching for Creative Patient Portal Solutions

Searching for Creative Patient Portal Solutions | Healthcare and Technology news |

This year, as you may already know, both hospitals and physician practices participating in Meaningful Use must offer patients a way to access their health records electronically. The patient electronic access objective specifically calls for providing patients the ability to view online, download, and transmit their health information. Those familiar with this objective often call it VDT for short.

Although having a patient portal is a requirement of Meaningful Use, it’s not required to be helpful, relevant, responsive, attractive, or even usable. It’s just got to be “there.”

From a patient’s perspective, there are plenty of reasons to delay logging on, even beyond the well-documented reasons of not having an email address or access to the internet. Many patients have no idea what to look for on the portal and if they don’t understand the benefits of having access to their medical records, why should they care? Frankly, a bad online experience could seriously hurt a practice’s chances of meeting their VDT goals.

So What Works?

Everyone’s trying something. Here are some strategies practices are implementing:

  • Offer more amenities on the portal: the ability to see statements, pay bills, schedule visits, or access educational materials specific to the patient’s conditions.
  • Instead of listening to smooth jazz while on hold,  patients are given instructions on how to access the portal and told about what information they will find there.
  • A TV monitor on the wall of the waiting room cycles through testimonials about how convenient it is for patients to schedule, access their records, or email their doctor.
  • Signage is in place throughout the facility including hallways, triage rooms, exam rooms, bathrooms, elevators, stairwells.
  • Staff members are trained to talk articulately about the portal starting at check-in and at each point along the visit – because face it – if staff don’t buy-in to the benefits of the portal, then patients certainly won’t.
  • Offer tablets or other hand-held devices for patients to log in to the portal before they leave the office. Make sure staff are ready to help if patients have questions.
  • Do some investigative work – start taking notes about what patients call into the practice about most. Then find out if you can address these issues in the portal. This could automates a task for your staff while simultaneously addressing a need for your patients.

There are lots of challenges to getting patients to engage online, no doubt. But that means there’s a lot of opportunities for creative solutions.

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5 ways to improve patient engagement in hospitals

5 ways to improve patient engagement in hospitals | Healthcare and Technology news |

Improving patient engagement is a subject that’s being talked about in hospital boardrooms across the country. It’s become the in-fashion political buzz phrase. Certainly sounds very well and good, but what exactly does it mean?

Likely different things to different people depending on what angle they approach it — all the way from a care assistant up to the hospital CEO. In a nutshell, it’s all about allowing the patient to take center stage in their health care, and being fully informed and understanding each step of the way. It’s about education, encouraging healthy behaviors, improving health outcomes, and lowering health care costs. The ideal state is to allow the patient to feel that they are in the driving seat and full participants in their own care.

As things currently stand, most health care systems across the world are way off from this place. It’s not just the health care that’s to blame either — because the biggest part of patient engagement involves the patient stepping up to the plate themselves. And there are some very real barriers to this including education, demographics and motivation. There’s also the reality that most 90-year-old chronically unwell patients in hospital will have difficulty taking care of themselves. The issue is thus a complex one.

No one has a better understanding of where the opportunities for improvement lie than the doctors and nurses working at the coalface. We get to see all the problems up close and personal on a daily basis. I’m going to talk about how this pertains to my own specialty of hospital medicine, and where we have enormous room to engage patients better while they are in hospital. Here are 5 areas to focus on:

1. Encouraging patients to ask questions when they see their doctor every day. As simple as it sounds, this is not done nearly enough, and is a big missed opportunity to make a difference to patients’ understanding of their illness. There are a number of reasons why this doesn’t happen, ranging from a “rushed” hospital environment, to patients sometimes feeling embarrassed to ask certain questions. I’m actually surprised by some of the questions I hear when I ask my patients if they have anything they want to ask me, and there’s no way I would have guessed what they were unsure about unless I encouraged them to speak up.

2. Giving patients all the knowledge they need about their medical condition. Writing details such as blood count numbers on the whiteboard at the end of their bed is one way to do this. In the future, patients will likely be able to pull up some of their own data on computers. The more that patients know, the more empowered they will be to make important health care decisions.

3. Involvement of families. Just as important as the patient, is the family. This is true for any patient who is too unwell to speak for themselves, and particularly applies to the elderly. Doctors and nurses have to ensure that family is completely on board with the plan of care and what their role is in the recovery process. I’ve always said that if you want to make sure that something is done after discharge, tell the patient’s daughter. It’s been my observation everywhere.

4. Involving the patient fully in the discharge process. The discharge process by its’ very nature is a risky endeavor. Typically there are medications that have been changed, tests pending, or even an uncertain diagnosis. All this at a time when the patient is still very frail. It is a crucial transition point, more important than almost any other to get right.

5. Follow-up care. All hospitalized patients must follow-up in a timely manner after being discharged. Nipping a potential problem in the bud can help reduce readmissions and potentially serious complications. Reminders should be sent to the primary care physician and a post-discharge follow-up call from a nurse or administrator would not go amiss — and also shows that we care.

There is no one magic formula for solving the issue of patient engagement in hospital medicine. It will require a multifaceted and multidisciplinary approach. Whichever arena we are in, it is vital for a number of reasons. Whether we are talking about raising the quality of health care, improving outcomes, or lowering health care costs — there’s a great deal to play for. The more knowledge and opportunities to participate in their own health care, the better it is for both patients and doctors.

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Patient Portals: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly -

Patient Portals: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - | Healthcare and Technology news |

I experienced the “pain” of accessing and managing multiple provider portal sites firsthand following an injury and subsequent surgery earlier this year. In the months following my hospitalization, I walked away with paperwork and access codes to five different patient portal sites, including my PCP, surgeon, the initial hospital where I received emergency treatment, the hospital where I had surgery, and in addition (not related to my injury) my OB/Gyn, and recently, my dentist! Despite my healthcare IT background, it was a daunting task to sign up for each site and as you can imagine the lack of linkage leads to a very fragmented view of my patient data.

But, the fragmented view is only the beginning of the problem with multiple portals. There are multiple log-ins and each portal has different requirements for my user ID and password. One site advertises that they are a “Healthkey” member, and if your providers are all members then you can link user IDs and passwords, resulting in one user ID and password for all sites. In my case, only one out of the five portals offered this feature. Another portal offered the use of Facebook, Google, LiveID, and Yahoo as a log-in, with the disclaimer that the only advertised “secure” site was the vendors’ login.

Another difficulty is that each portal looks and feels different. Each portal offers its own navigation, verbiage and menus. A “roadmap” for each would be helpful or maybe it would add to the confusion. Perhaps most alarming is that each portal contained different “pictures” of my healthcare information, including conflicting medication lists. None of the current medication lists were accurate. Some had missing active medications, some listed medications that I no longer take, some contained the wrong dosage, while others listed no medications at all.

Only one portal (my PCP’s portal) was close to containing an accurate medical history, and even that was incomplete. Only three out of five portals contained lab test results, just one had a complete list, and two contained imaging results.

How do we make the patient portal experience better? A few thoughts:

  • Offer additional ways to consolidate and standardize patient user IDs and passwords
  • Create and follow a standard model for menus and navigation
  • Develop a single repository for access to all data or optimize sharing of patient healthcare data between systems
  • Standardize accuracy requirements for entry of healthcare data to provide a consistent, accurate view for all patients

Some organizations are moving toward standardization. One vendor has developed a “shared” patient portal and while the concept is on track, there is still the option to customize the look and feel based on organizational build decisions. The result is a fragmented record that almost looks the same. Both of the hospitals I was treated at use the “same” EHR, but each EHR utilizes their organization’s version. In order for healthcare organizations and providers to meet Meaningful Use (MU) requirements for patient access to their electronic healthcare records, and communication with their patients, they will need to simplify the process overall. Personally, I was ready to pitch all of the information on these portals when I realized how much of my time would be involved, measured in hours, not minutes. And that’s not counting the time I could spend logging into each portal to update (and correct) my personal healthcare information. The typical patient will not have the patience, and quite possibly the ability to handle management of multiple sites and all that goes with them. And while we have come a long way, there’s still much work to do in simplifying patient portals.

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